Okay, here's a post that's long overdue! This post came about as the result of a comment that one of my readers, Alisa, left for me on my anniversary post from last year. Here is the comment that started everything:
Hi Beasts'belle :)
I was reading this post with amazement! I only want God's Will in my life, I want to marry someone who isn't pushy in a relationship like the kind you see today. I pray for my future husband everyday. I'm just worried that I'll never meet him or marry the wrong one! I've been praying for him since I was 12 and now I'm 15. I'm scared though because I don't have any good examples in my life. My parents were on the verge of a separation. It's hard for me to understand how married couples are supposed to love each other and get along. I would really like it if you gave me advice. What if I turn out the same way they did and fight? I try to work it out in my head and realize what went wrong in that certain fight. I feel closer to you than my Mom :) Sorry for the super long comment.
I didn't feel I could do justice to the answer Alisa deserved in another comment, so I told her I would like to do a post about the topic in her honor. That was back in November. I'm rather ashamed it's taken me this long to respond, but I felt it was important to address some of the issues she brought up in her comment.
I'd like to start by saying that I am by no means a marriage or relationship expert. This post will simply contain some of the things I've learned and observed in my own relationship with my hubby. :)
WARNING! THIS POST WILL BE WRITTEN FROM A CHRISTIAN VIEWPOINT AND WILL EVEN (GASP!) CONTAIN SCRIPTURE REFERENCES! JUST SO YOU'RE WARNED. ;)
I normally try to keep things light as far as using Bible verses and pointedly expressing my viewpoints, but honestly, I have nothing worthwhile to say to this young lady if I can't include God's Word. I realize that not all of my readers are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I know that this is primarily a doll/Disney blog, so I understand if this post will not interest some of you...or perhaps even offend. If you do have a differing viewpoint, I welcome comments expressing that. However, please keep them clean and respectful, or I will not be able to publish them.
As I read your comment, Alisa, I could hear echoes from my own heart as a young teen. Like you, I was very worried about never meeting "the one for me", or marrying "the wrong one". I think some of this came from too many years of watching Disney movies, ;) but finding "the one" was often stressed within my Christian circles, too. (I went into most of this in the original post, so those of you who have not read it and want to hear more can click the link in the first paragraph.) :)
So here are some tips, just for you, my dear (and for everyone else who happens to be reading this post!). ;)
First off, before you even meet your future someone, you need to make sure that your heart and mind are in the right place. And you're off to a great start. You can't ever go wrong by praying about your future. Praying for your future spouse specifically is also a wonderful idea. God is always there, ready to listen. Talk to Him about your hopes and fears for your life. We are told in the Bible to "cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." (I Peter 5:7) Not only that, but we are told to "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7) Prayer is real, and it makes a real difference...at the very least, it helps us rest in the will of God and His direction in our lives.
Of course, prayer is only part of our communication with God. We also need to be reading God's Word. The older I get and the wiser I (hopefully) become, the more I realize my desperate need for daily refreshment from God's Word. I can never live up to God's full potential for my life if I'm trying to be a "Super Christian" on my own. Time and time again, I've seen examples of this in my own life. It's amazing how many wrong decisions I can make in a day that I haven't started with my time alone with God. That isn't to say that my days spent in Bible reading and prayer are perfect and without mistakes, but they're sure a lot better than the days I go without! :} In Psalm 119:11, it says: "Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You." It's a simple verse, one that many of us learn as small children. Yet that simple message holds a powerful truth. Reading and memorizing God's Word gives us the power to obey God and to make the right decisions throughout our day...and ultimately, throughout our life.
You mentioned your concern that you might make the same mistakes your parents have made. I can understand this. I think it's a natural part of human nature to fall back on the patterns and behaviors that have been modeled for us by our parents. Because of their example, there may be times where you will struggle in the same areas that your parents did. But take heart! That doesn't mean that you have to make the same mistakes or follow the same course. By God's grace and through His power, you can live a different life than the one your parents have. It may not come easily, but it is not impossible. Remember Philippians 4:13? Another simple verse, but another great message: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." In the context of the chapter, it's specifically speaking about having the ability to be content no matter what our circumstances. However, I don't think it's inappropriate to apply this to our Christian life in general. This verse doesn't mean that we can all be ballerinas or have a 4 octave range, but we can do all the things that God has commanded us to do in His Word through the power of His Holy Spirit.
Honestly, knowing your areas of weakness and struggle can work to your advantage. You can be even more on your guard and in constant prayer about these areas that are difficult for you, or perhaps areas that you fear may become difficult for you in the future. It's often disheartening to come face to face with our failings, but the sooner we acknowledge those weaknesses and give them to the Lord, the sooner He can give us the ability to conquer those struggles through His power and for His glory. You do not have to be just like your parents.
So, we've talked a bit about what you can be working on as you await your future prince. And by "awaiting", I don't mean sitting dreamily in a tower singing "Someday My Prince Will Come". ;) Get involved in your local church. Spend time with your friends. Use the talents and abilities God has given you. Enjoy the stage you're in! You only get one life, one opportunity to shine for the Lord...don't let it go to waste! But what happens when someone special comes into your life?
The number one thing I would recommend is to start out as friends! Don't constantly be on the lookout for some cutie that makes you want to swoon. Just be appropriately friendly with everyone. If you do have a special guy that stands out, don't rush things! Get to know each other on a casual basis first. You'll be able to see a much more realistic picture of someone when they're not trying to impress you.
When you do start dating (or courting, as the case may be), I would urge you, once again, to take things slowly. Teen romance as depicted in most movies and TV shows today involves a lot of kissing and hugging and who knows what all else at the very beginning of the relationship. Physical affection (hugging, holding hands, kissing, etc.) can be wonderful and amazing, but it is never satisfied. The first time you hold someone's hand, you feel like you could float all the way home. After a while, that gets old, so you move on to hugging, or kissing. Each stage is exciting and new at first, but soon becomes the norm and loses it's "wow" factor. If you are young and a long ways off from marriage, you want to take care that you don't give away too much too quickly. One thing I was told is to behave yourself in a relationship in a way that you would not be embarrassed to tell your future spouse about. You want to have relationships with no regrets, so that you can give yourself wholeheartedly to your husband. One way to accomplish this is to decide even before you're in a relationship what your boundaries will be, both physically and emotionally. For instance, my husband and I made the decision to wait to kiss until we were engaged. Your boundaries may be different, but the important thing is to decide on them before you are caught off guard. Emotions are powerful things, so trying to decide on a boundary in the middle of an emotional or physical situation may be too difficult, even if you know the decision you should make.
Another problem with rushing things physically in your relationship is that you're often still getting to know each other at the beginning. You may discover that this person is not someone you can spend the rest of your life with. But the more emotionally and physically involved you are with someone, the harder it can be to break things off.
This brings me to another thought: don't date (or court) anyone you wouldn't consider marrying in the future. This doesn't mean you are committing to definitely marrying the person. However, if you see things in a guy's personality that make you think, "Wow, I don't think I could ever marry him," I would advise you to not waste your time in a relationship that has no future. (I'm especially thinking of issues of concern, such as a guy with a bad temper, or abusive behavior, or a foul mouth...something along that line.) One of the other problems with "dating" as defined by our culture is that it has become so disposable, and as a result, marriage has become disposable. Many people date with no thought for the future. They just want to live in the moment and have fun...they'll worry about the consequences later. Especially as a Christian, that's a dangerous place to be.
Alisa, you mentioned the struggle you have with your family and the lack of godly examples you have in the home. Do you have a local church that you attend? I would encourage you to try to find one if you haven't already. I'm sure that you could find some wise, older women in the church who would be willing to encourage you in your walk with God. Find someone to keep you accountable, and to build you up in your faith. You don't have to face things alone. Of course, you know that God is always with you, but I think there's a definite value in godly, human friendships as well. The Lord can really use that in your life.
If you do end up engaged to a special young man, I would highly recommend that you find a reputable pastor to give you pre-marital counselling. There are so many things that can be addressed during these sessions that you might not have even thought of. This would also be a great time to discuss your family history and some of your concerns in that area. I'm sure the pastor would be willing to give you guidance in that area specifically. Sometimes, just getting it out in the open is incredibly helpful, too. :)
Once you are married (Lord willing), my advice is much the same as before: keep in the Word, keep in prayer. Above all, keep the lines of loving communication open between you and your spouse. Find ways to show him how much you appreciate him. Make some special memories together. If you do get in an argument (which you will), try to guard your tongue. If you are too angry to discuss things, take a break and pray for wisdom and calm. After the heat of the moment has passed, talk things out. Don't let conflicts go unresolved. I can't stress the prayer enough, though. I could give you specific examples where just praying HARD about an issue with my husband helped me to change my attitude towards him. So when in doubt, pray!! ;)
As a wife and mother, I've found several radio programs that encourage me, in addition to my Bible reading and prayer. Some of my favorites are Revive Our Hearts (I don't agree with all of her theology or viewpoints, but I have been truly blessed by many of her sessions on marriage and motherhood), Focus on the Family Weekend Magazine (Once again, I'm not 100% in their camp theologically, but they have great sessions on marriage and family), and Let My People Think by Ravi Zacharias (I haven't heard much from Ravi, but I greatly appreciate his passion for truth and his compassion; I also appreciate his understanding of Eastern culture, especially since I've watched so many Bollywood movies. It's given me a heart for the East Indian people, and I'm so thrilled that there are people like Ravi reaching out to them in a way that many others couldn't.) Check your local Christian radio stations and see what you can find! Of course, you always want to evaluate what you hear and make sure it's consistent with the truth of God's Word.
Above all, try not to stress! The same God who cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of field cares for you (Luke 12:24-30), and knows exactly what He has planned for your life. Don't get caught up in finding "the one"! I don't believe that there is only one person out there that is your "match", and that if you don't find him you're just out of luck! ;) God is much more gracious than that. And I'm sorry, but there is no perfect man. He may be absolutely charming, but you can be absolutely sure he's going to have some sort of annoying habit, like leaving the toilet seat up or leaving his dirty socks on the floor. At the same time, I do believe that you can end up settling for less than God's best, so be wise in the relationships you choose to pursue.
It may even be that God will not bring someone into your life. He may desire for you to have an amazing ministry as a single woman. Of course, my prayer is that He would bring you someone to share your life with (especially since I'm an incurable romantic!). No matter what your future may be, I can assure you that there is nothing to be afraid of. You can also be assured that I will be praying for you. :)
I'll leave you with another well-known verse that has brought me comfort countless times:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
We can trust in God's goodness, even when we don't understand what He is doing. And when we are in constant communication with Him, He will direct us in the way we should go.
Wow, I"m sorry this post ended up being so humongous!! Bravo to everyone who made it all the way through! ;) Thanks for taking the time to read through my ramblings. ;) And Alisa, I hope this was an encouragement to you. :) Feel free to contact me anytime you need to talk. :)
P.S. I thought I'd just mention a couple of books that I found to be very helpful. (I must confess it's been a while since I've read these two books, but I was very encouraged by them when I was in a dating relationship with my future husband.)
-"Boundaries in Dating" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. (This was where I first heard of the concept to set emotional and physical boundaries before entering a relationship, which I thought was brilliant!)
-"I Gave Dating a Chance" by Jeramy Clark. (This came out shortly after the famous "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" book by Joshua Harris. I appreciated Jeramy's balanced perspective in this book. His point was that dating itself wasn't the problem...it was how dating principles were being applied. In a nutshell, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, to borrow the phrase!) ;)
These next ones would be more for after you're married, as they deal with some of the physical aspects of a marriage relationship as well.
-"Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti" by Bill and Pam Farrell. (A hilarious look at the differences between men and women...and spot on, at least in our case!)
-"For Men Only" and "For Women Only" by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn. (A very insightful book based on surveys taken by men and women of numerous ages, races, and religions with some pretty startling revelations about what men and women are really thinking. My hubby and I both learned a lot about each other from reading these books.)
-"The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. (This book talks about 5 different ways to show love, and helps you discover you and your spouse's primary "love language". We really appreciated Gary's insight, and learned some things in this book, too!)